A cycle of copied content
A thumbs-down to reposts and thumbs-up to authenticity.

If the last few years have taught me anything, it is that I should be wary of people, places, the news, and whatever content surfaces online. Though this has not stopped me from indulging in social media to waste the extra time on my hands. 

While people push through another lockdown, what else is there to do but film ourselves—or others—doing something funny, impressive, or embarrassingly problematic and post it to TikTok? By default, videos get repetitive—such is the “bad side” of the mass amount of content posted during the lockdown. 

Sometimes you get an original song posted by an aspiring musician. Most times you get another “I shout at people at a red light PRANK!!!” A video that documents socially unacceptable behaviour is one too many, but the problem arises when others become content copy-cats. It happened at the height of Squid Game’s popularity—people built their own “games” and successfully missed the entire point of the show—and it continues to happen with other viral content.

Copy-cat content, usually done without giving credit to the original creator, can cheapen the content. Not only is it unoriginal and disruptive, but one viral copy-cat encourages other copy-cats. The worst is when the original content is a prank video. Stressing out minimum-wage workers under the guise of a prank should not be copied, but because the slice-of-life videos are so popular, others recreate it for their own moment of fame. Perhaps part of the desperation for attention comes from both the lack of human contact in lockdown and the need to fit in to evolving trends. 

This cycle, which is not unique to TikTok, continues to overshadow genuine content. I have become cynical to any viral content, regardless of its sincerity. My first assumption is that the content is either fake, a rip-off, or promoted. This cynicism harms genuine creators because now they are put under scrutiny so that the audience can determine if they are “authentic”—which is subjective to each person—before a user will want to support them. 

On the rare occasion, a video of an animal making a strange rhythmic sound will go viral, and the musicians of TikTok band together to create a short song. The “duet chains” have quickly become my favourites on TikTok. Duet chains—where a user links their video with another to add onto the original—embody a level of spontaneity and sincerity. 

Over the last few years, society has simultaneously formed and destroyed our sense of community. When content considered insincere goes viral, phrases like “lost faith in humanity” accompany them. On the other hand, with sincere content, people’s faith in humanity is “restored.”

I believe that the type of content that goes viral at any given moment influences people’s overall morale. The day’s tone either shows distrust or hope in fellow humans. The dilemma lies in how we can and cannot control what goes viral. There will always be a subset of people who enjoy the attention-seeking, copied content, and it will continue to block out the more amiable videos. Platforms like TikTok are built in a way where replicated and shock-value content are favoured because they encourage people to post their own versions and beckon others to criticise them.

My solution, if you can call it that, is to ignore copied content, especially if they are obnoxious. Viral content is meant to be reactionary, so our attention only fuels the cycle of disingenuous content. By completely disregarding them, we give honest creators a window to reach each other and a larger audience. 

The best way to look at this is that for every disingenuous piece of content, there are a handful of genuine creators. 

Staff Writer (Volume 48) — Sherene graduated with a double major in Communication, Culture, Information & Technology and Professional Writing. It wasn't until her third year at UTM that she realised she wanted to be a writer and thus began contributing to campus publications including The Medium. When she's not stressing over the anxieties of adult life with Buffy the Vampire Slayer playing in the background, she loves to write, draw, drink milk tea and buy more journals than she'll ever need.

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